NFL Nation: 2012 Divisional Rapid Reaction Giants-Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 37-20 playoff victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

What it means: Well, it means the Giants are one game away from the Super Bowl. The defeated the 15-1 Packers on the Packers' home field and now get a chance to avenge another of their regular-season losses next week in San Francisco. It also seems to give credence to the theory that playing at playoff-level intensity in the weeks leading up to the playoffs can give a team an advantage.

Who are these guys?: These are not the same Giants that were losing four straight games to fall to .500 and into second place a little more than a month ago. We knew they were tough, and that Eli Manning was a fourth-quarter assassin. But during those tough November/December days, it did not appear as though the Giants had the manpower to win these kinds of games against these kinds of teams. They are healthier now, and they look as focused, driven and confident as any team left in the field. And they are a legitimate threat to bring home the fourth Super Bowl trophy in franchise history.

Discipline deep: The Giants looked lost in coverage in the first quarter, as they did for most of the season. But they tightened up in the second and made plays in the secondary all day when it counted. Green Bay helped out by dropping its share of passes, but Antrel Rolle led the way for a clearly fired-up Giants secondary, and for maybe the first time all year it looked as though the front four was feeding off what the guys on the back end were doing. Michael Boley got two sacks from the linebacker position as the Giants tried everything they could to get Aaron Rodgers to stop beating them with his legs. Most importantly, the Giants stayed disciplined in the secondary, so that even when they didn't break up the pass, there was a safety and/or a cornerback there to keep the gain from turning into a big, backbreaking one. It wasn't always pretty, but they did an excellent job of keeping the Packers' explosive offense in front of them, and they benefited as a result.

Winning the turnover battle: The Packers are plus-23 in the turnover category during the regular season. But the Kansas City Chiefs -- until Sunday, the only team to have beaten them -- didn't turn the ball over at all against them. And the Giants had a 3-1 turnover edge in Sunday's game. Manning threw an interception, but the Giants recovered three Green Bay fumbles to seize the edge in a category that routinely decides games in the NFL.

Who's No. 1?: Victor Cruz has been the headline-grabber in New York this year, and for good reason. But Hakeem Nicks showed everybody he's still the best wide receiver the Giants have. Nicks turned in the long catch-and-run that's becoming a Giants' staple -- a 66-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. He caught the Manning Hail Mary in the end zone that gave the Giants a shocking 20-10 halftime lead. He finished with seven catches for 165 yards and made the biggest plays of the day.

Big plays at the right time: The Giants were 8-for-15 on third-down conversions for the game. The Packers were 6-for-11, which might have been the story if the game had swung the other way. But on this day, the Giants had the better offense.

What's next: The Giants will travel to San Francisco, where they will play the 49ers in the NFC Championship game at 6:30 pm ET. The winner of that game will advance to Super Bowl XLVI two weeks later in Indianapolis.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Some thoughts from a stunned Lambeau Field following the Green Bay Packers' 37-20 loss to the New York Giants:

What it means: The Packers saved their worst outing of the season for the playoffs, and it led to an unexpected and deeply disappointing end to a 15-1 season. The Giants outplayed them in every way imaginable, and the Packers didn't look much like a team that had won 21 of its previous 22. The result detracted again from the postseason mystique of Lambeau Field, where the Packers have now lost four of their past six playoff games. Two of those losses have been to the Giants, who also ended the Packers' 2007 season in the NFC Championship Game.

Rare mistakes: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said during the week that he didn't believe in the concept of "rust" for a team coming off a playoff bye. Call it whatever you want. The Packers made mistakes that simply didn't happen during the regular season. Fullback John Kuhn lost the first fumble of his career. Rodgers missed receiver Greg Jennings for what would have been an easy touchdown in the first quarter. Rodgers also lost a fumble, on a second-quarter sack by Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, for the first time this season. The normally sure-handed Ryan Grant fumbled for only the second time this season in the fourth quarter. And depending on how tough of a grader you are, the Packers dropped anywhere from four to eight passes. One was a third-quarter pass to Jennings, who had a step on safety Antrel Rolle in single coverage in the end zone.

Defense tightens up: The big fear surrounding the Packers this season was that a hot quarterback would knock them and their porous pass defense out of the playoffs. Things seemed to be headed in that direction after Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw for 274 yards in the first half, capped by a 37-yard pass to receiver Hakeem Nicks on a Hail Mary. But it's going to be tough to affix too much responsibility to the defense for this game. The Packers tightened significantly in the second half, and the Giants didn't have a single first down in the third quarter. Manning threw for 56 yards in the second half. That should have given the Packers' offense enough of an opportunity to even up the game if it was up to it. It wasn't. They couldn't get the ball downfield at all against the Giants defense, and their longest play of the game was a 29-yard run by James Starks in the third quarter.

Key play: Backed by a bit of momentum and hoping to tie the game early in the fourth quarter, the Packers faced a third-and-five at the Giants' 39-yard line. Tight end Jermichael Finley was wide open at about the 25-yard line, but Rodgers' throw was just off his outstretched fingertips. It wasn't immediately clear whether Rodgers overthrew Finley or if Finley stopped his route early. But it was one of the Packers' biggest missed opportunities in this game. Rodgers was sacked on fourth down, and the Giants converted the ensuing possession into a 35-yard field goal to make it a two-score game midway through the fourth quarter.

Injury report: Kuhn didn't return after injuring his right knee in the third quarter.

What's next: The Packers have a young and deep team set up for long-term success. They'll need to address the contract situation of Finley, who is a pending free agent. It will take some time to get over Sunday's disappointment, but the Packers' future should be bright.

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